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The prey taken was of three kinds: persons (verses 12, 18, 35), beasts (32-34) and
money & goods (22 and 50). These were divided among the congregation and the army.
In this we have an anticipation of David's ruling concerning "his part . . . . . that tarrieth
by the stuff" (I Sam. 30: 24). On the other hand there is due recognition of the active
part played by the soldier, whose levy was "one soul of five hundred" whilst that of the
congregation was "one portion of fifty" (Numb. 31: 27-30). At the close of this levy, a
census was taken of the warriors, which revealed the fact that there "lacked not one" of
them. Moved with gratitude, they bring an oblation, to make an atonement for their
Chapter 32: is mainly concerned with the request of Reuben and Gad, that
their inheritance should be allotted to them in the land of Gilead because "the place was
a place for cattle". They requested that they should not be brought "over Jordan"
(32: 1-5). Their request was granted, upon condition that they sent their quota to war,
until Israel had entered into their own possessions. There is an important lesson here,
which we shall probably consider in our study of the Book of Joshua and its typical
teaching. We may anticipate, however, without going into detail:--
(1) It was the possession of cattle, not the glory of the Lord, or the following
of His will, that influenced Reuben and Gad.
(2) It was an attempt to reverse God's order--which was the conquest of
Canaan first, and then the spreading out to occupy the land "from sea to sea".
(3) The gaining of their request meant that many never returned to wife and
children or inheritance. And when Israel began to be taken into captivity, they
were among the first to go.
It is "natural" to shirk the crossing of Jordan, but it is foreign to the teaching of
Chapter 33: is occupied with a record of the journeys of Israel. The word
"journeys" in verse one is, in the Hebrew, "pullings up", and has reference to the tent
pegs. The whole is a record of pilgrimage, and a remainder of the way in which the Lord
had led the people, suffering their ways, providing food and raiment, and eventually
leading them into the land of promise.
Chapter 34: fixes the bounds of the inheritance.
Chapter 35: provides for the tribe of Levi forty-eight cities, of which six are
reserved as cities of refuge for the man-slayer (verses 1-6). Three of these cities were in
the land of Canaan, and three on the other side of Jordan (verse 14). The avenger of
blood is the kinsman-redeemer; and this chapter, together with those that deal with the
problem of the daughters of Zelophedad, provided a twofold aspect of the work of the
Redeemer, corresponding to the two words, "destroy" and "deliver" in Heb. 2: 14, 15.